Future TV May Obey Your Every Move
Those gestures you make at the TV may take on an actual meaning if Hitachi and GestureTek have their way. The two companies are working together to bring a version of remote control to the TV without using a handheld device. Instead, a camera positioned below the set will pick up your hand movements, and allow you to change channels, navigate menus, raise and lower the volume, simply by waving your hands.
Before you get all excited about acting like Tom Cruise in your own version of Minority Report, however, keep in mind that this is still at the prototype stage. Hitachi did demonstrate it at Ceatec last year and at CES in January, but there's no guarantee that it will actually make it to market. That said, GestureTek has been making motion-control software for nearly 20 years, and it has been used in a variety of devices, including cell phones and game consoles.
The hardware presents a challenge. The remoteless remote uses a depth camera to spot predetermined gestures (meaning that you can gesture in three dimensions and the camera will understand it). As you would expect, such cameras are expensive; they cost 10 to 20 times what you would expect to pay for a web cam. William Leckonby, CEO of GestureTek, thinks the price will come down in the next year and a half, to $50 per camera. That's low enough for TV manufacturers to consider including them in their premium models. It may be worth paying a little extra to never lose the remote again...though fighting over control of it could take on a whole new meaning.
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Car Need Batteries? Grow Your Own
Normally, the process of producing lithium ion batteries is hard on the environment: it involves highly reactive components, high temperatures, and very nasty solvents, to say nothing of the hazards of handling lithium. Anything that can make it cleaner and safer to manufacture these batteries, which power everything from electronic gadgets to hybrid cars, is welcome. Now, scientists have successfully turned to genetically engineered viruses for a solution.
Angela Belcher and her team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took
a harmless virus dubbed M13 and inserted two genes into it: one
that makes the virus produce proteins that bond with iron and phosphate
ions, and another that creates a protein at the tip of the virus
that bonds to a carbon nanotube. When you combine these two processes,
you end up with tubular virus particles sheathed in iron phosphate,
becoming nanowires, with a tip that conducts electricity. They had,
in short, a cathode, and since they'd previously used a virus to
make an anode, creating the full battery was relatively simple.
This is a battery, but is it any good? According to the team's tests, it's as good as the best commercially available lithium ion batteries. They now have a fully virus-based, 3-volt lithium ion battery that can easily power an LED. The creation process does not involve high temperatures, harsh chemicals or fancy equipment. Best of all, the battery is as efficient as the best of what we have today, and it's effectively a first draft. Belcher thinks they can boost their battery's performance using the same basic production system.
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Library of Congress Launches YouTube Channel
You've seen some amazing things on YouTube, but nothing quite like this. The Library of Congress made its way onto the wildly popular video website with its own channel this week. The move follows hot on the heels of the organization's collaboration with Flickr to bring thousands of non-copyrighted images to the photo sharing web site.
So what has the LOC chosen to share? The channel currently offers 70 historical videos, including the first moving image ever (of a man sneezing), century-old films from the studio of Thomas Edison, and industrial films featuring Rosie the Riveter. This is the tiniest fraction of the Library's six million video collection, and more are coming. LOC Director of Communications Matt Raymond insisted on the organization's public blog that they're not going to just upload a bunch of videos and walk away.
This probably won't be the last time you see the Library of Congress
collaborating with a new media web site, either. Plans are in the
works to distribute some of the library's collection through iTunes,
and might even look into using Vimeo and blip(dot)tv. You can also
check out the organization's own web site, at LOC.gov, to see what's
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